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Q&A with It’s Our City co-founder Bill Demeter

It’s Our City (IOCI) was launched as a citizens movement seven years ago in response to regressive actions in Christchurch’s city hall that resulted in the erosion of three key democratic principles: transparency, responsibility and participation.

From the start, one of the movement’s aims was to lobby vigorously for citizens to use their vote to rid the city of politicians who did not endorse these principles.

As IOCI co-founder Bill Demeter explains, after seven long, frustrating and vexing years the 2013 Local Government Elections produced high calibre candidates who not only were able to end the reign of Sideshow Bob Parker but who also culled his royalists back to a single survivor.

In this Q&A Bill shares his thoughts about the election and the new Council with Michael Herman.

Bill, you sent the It’s Our City Elections Panel recommendations to thousands of emails and posted them on this website along with advice on who NOT to vote for. Were these recommendations followed?

Our panel did really, really well, delivering a list which ultimately was 93.3% accurate.

We endorsed nine candidates and seven of them won. We also identified a further nine who would be acceptable options and five of them won. And we strongly cautioned voters to give six a wide berth and five of them lost.

These are pretty good numbers!

You’ve been a political activist for many years, what’s your executive summary of the election?

The Royalists “A” Team are history except for Jamie Gough. Wells, Reid, Corbett, Button and Keown are now nothing but a fading bad dream.

Many new names and personalities who have already demonstrated achievement in their previous careers have won their seat around the Council table and I expect they’ll work hard for the city.

If you must put labels on them, this is group is centre-Left but more importantly it is both capable of and wants to run the city for the citizens and to make sure the City Manager or City Executive executes their plans.

We finally have a very smart mayor who will ‘walk the walk’ and ‘not talk the talk’. Unlike her predecessor, she will actually listen to people and is comfortable in her own skin.

Take us through a recap of the Mayor’s race and ward by ward with the winners?

The Panel endorsed Lianne Dalziel for mayor because of her background, parliamentary experience, her vision and her understanding of problems in Christchurch were unrivalled and voters eventually gave her a convincing 50,000 vote lead on her closest rival, Paul Lonsdale.

While Paul lost the mayoral race the Hagley-Ferrymead ward voters chose him and Yani Johanson, but more of that later.

First, in my ward – Shirley-Papanui – IOCI endorsed Ali Jones and provided as acceptable options both Jonathan Corfe and Pauline Cotter. Based on their poor voting records and performance, we strongly recommended not voting for Ngaire Button and Aaron Keown . In Keown’s case holding two elected positions at the same time was viewed as unacceptable.

Ali pulled 8,929 votes and Pauline a very respectable 6,185; they take their seats around the Council table.

In Fendalton-Waimairi IOCI endorsed Raf Manji and Faimeh Burke and strongly recommended not voting for Jamie Gough, Claudia Reid and Mike Wall. As city councillors, Jamie, Claudia and Mike consistently voted for the Parker/Marryatt Agenda and supported the controversial pay rises for Marryatt.

Jamie attracted the most votes (8,654) and Raf 6,447, joining Ali, Pauline and Lianne.

In Burwood-Pegasus we endorsed Glenn Livingstone and identified both Robyn Nuthall and David East as acceptable choices after Glenn.

David won 7,429 votes and Glenn 6,813. They also take seats around the table. Interestingly, Robyn was in third position with 4,744.

In Hagley-Ferrymead IOCT endorsed Yani Johanson and Paul Lonsdale. Both were elected, Yani with 7,325 and Paul with 4,621 votes.

In Riccarton-Wigram we endorsed Vicki Buck and Jimmy Chen. They earned first and second place, and join the new Council, with Vicki scooping 11,151 votes and Jimmy 4,621.

IOCI endorsed Erin Jackson in the Spreydon-Heathcote ward and found both Tim Scandrett and Phil Clearwater acceptable choices after Erin. Phil was the clear winner with 7,565 votes and Tim earned the other seat with 5,771. Erin performed very well and attracted 5,030 votes.

We found all the Banks Peninsula candidates acceptable. At the time of going to press, the final decision between Andrew Turner and Nuk Korako had nt been announced.

Are there any ‘A’ team, or to use your term, Royalists left on the council?

Only Jamie Gough and I fully expect this new group of councillors will turn him around by their own actions. He will have to carry his own weight and earn their respect by how hard he thinks and works.

A word about Helen Broughton. Although highly unpredictable, Helen did a very good job toward the end of her term about issues that the Royalists did not want made public and did so without fear of criticism. Thank you Helen.

Is there any legacy from the Parker/Marryatt regime?

Well, they can serve as a textbook example of what not to do. Their arrogance and vanity combined to bring out the worst in governance and management. Let’s hope neither ever gets into a position of power again.

What can we look forward to with this new council?

They will follow a few simple rules:

  • Inspect not Expect.

  • They will initiate programs and projects – not the City Executive.

  • Why do we have two ears and only one mouth? They will listen to people!

  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure. They will get the facts before acting.

  • They will be fiscally prudent with our money.

  • They will laugh and have some fun.

Bill, do you have any final comments?

Yes. Seven years ago we started its Our City with the clear purpose of trying to bring the concepts of transparency, responsibility and participation to our locally elected politicians. We also have worked to rid the city of politicians who did not endorse these principles.

David Cox, Gail Sheriff, Bob Shearing, Mike Wall, Barry Corbett, Claudia Reid, Sue Wells, Bob Parker, Ngaire Button and Aaron Keown were people we targeted to not be re-elected.

We also worked hard to get Marryatt out of office but knew that would not happen. Luckily, he caused his own demise through arrogance.

We now have a real opportunity to get it right and to get this city back into the hands of those who own it – us, the ratepayers and residents.

I will not wish them luck because I don’t believe in it. Luck is when opportunity and hard work meet.

What positive and exciting times we have in front of us.

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